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Contested Reproduction

Genetic Technologies, Religion, and Public Debate

Scientific breakthroughs have led us to a point where soon we will be able to make specific choices about the genetic makeup of our offspring. In fact, this reality has arrived—and it is only a matter of time before the technology becomes widespread.

Much like past arguments about stem-cell research, the coming debate over these reproductive genetic technologies (RGTs) will be both political and, for many people, religious. In order to understand how the debate will play out in the United States, John H. Evans conducted the first in-depth study of the claims made about RGTs by religious people from across the political spectrum, and Contested Reproduction is the stimulating result.

Some of the opinions Evans documents are familiar, but others—such as the idea that certain genetic conditions produce a “meaningful suffering” that is, ultimately, desirable—provide a fascinating glimpse of religious reactions to cutting-edge science. Not surprisingly, Evans discovers that for many people opinion on the issue closely relates to their feelings about abortion, but he also finds a shared moral language that offers a way around the unproductive polarization of the abortion debate and other culture-war concerns. Admirably evenhanded, Contested Reproduction is a prescient, profound look into the future of a hot-button issue.

280 pages | 3 line drawings, 3 tables | 6 x 9 | © 2010


Religion: Religion and Society

Sociology: Medical Sociology, Social Change, Social Movements, Political Sociology


“This is an artfully conceived, well-researched, and well-written book on a topic of immense importance. It is completely original—literally unique in the focus of its investigation and the data it brings to bear. John Evans takes an extremely technical and complicated area of science and ethics and makes it accessible with a refreshing, admirably evenhanded approach. Contested Reproduction will be a landmark study.”

Christian Smith, University of Notre Dame

“The advances being made in genetics are astounding and hold great promise for our future health, but these same technologies and information used in the reproductive context causes great concern for many. All too frequently the public discourse about controversial technologies like these is framed by the extremes. In Contested Reproduction, John Evans shows that there is common ground and a shared language that can reach across the divide and promote a healthy dialogue. This book is essential reading for anyone who wants to engage in thoughtful public deliberation about the use of genetic technologies in reproductive decision-making.”

Joan A. Scott, director of the Genetics and Public Policy Center, Johns Hopkins University

“In Contested Reproduction John Evans provides a close reading and interpretation of the ways in which religiously minded Americans think about controversial reproductive genetic technologies. What I find especially valuable is the fact that Evans understands that how people talk about these issues is as important as how they think about them. This book is a very important contribution to the emerging body of empirical literature about religious discourse.”

Robert Wuthnow, Princeton University

Table of Contents


CHAPTER 1. Introduction 1
CHAPTER 2. The History of Abortion, Reproductive Genetic Technologies, and the Contemporary Public’s Views
CHAPTER 3. Talking About Embryonic Life
CHAPTER 4. Nature, God, Humanity, and Promethean Fatalism
CHAPTER 5. Human Dignity and Equality of Treatment
CHAPTER 6. Meaningful Suffering
CHAPTER 7. Will Religious Discourse about Reproductive Genetic Technologies Limit Debate?
CHAPTER 8. Conclusions

APPENDIX A. Methodological Appendix
APPENDIX B. Religious Respondent Interview Guide  

Works Cited

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